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Driving: A Brief History

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I passed my test (first time ;-) whilst at uni. Unfortunately, being a poor impoverished student, I couldn't afford a car. Then, a few years later when I had a job and could actually buy one, I didn't need to. Since relinquishing the carefree student life, I was suddenly not travelling halfway across the country every few months! I could ride to work quickly enough on my bike so a car was an unnecessary expense.

Hence for five years I was living just outside London and quite happy to have no car at all. My trusty bike and a pair of sturdy shoes were all I needed. For going further a field a train was usually good enough. Unfortunately, the British rail network is not exactly renowned for its efficiency and reliability :-(. After too many incidents of trains arriving several hours late (if at all!) I finally decided it was time to get myself some motorised wheels.

As I only needed something for going on holidays and at weekends I figured I could get away with something fun rather than boring but practical. And that of course means a proper British grand tourer - two seats, no roof, fun to drive, plenty of luggage space and stylish looks.

Lotus Elise The obvious choice for a modern British sports car is the Lotus Elise. They are definitely good fun to drive :-). Fun enough to easily make up for annoyances like a break pedal that only responds after lots of pressure, climbing in/out over a door sill that is as high as your knees, a less than rigid windscreen which means the rear view mirror becomes blurred past 30mph! However, the boot is smaller than even a small back pack! There is certainly no way you could get a suitcase into it :-(. 'Tis a great little car, just not even remotely practical as an only car. Oh well, never mind.

Then you've got the MG F (or TF rather since its revamp). But if you ask me, it looks like a teddy bear from the front! Admittedly less so on the new version, but its still there. And the drive is reportedly not that enticing.

For truly classic sports cars, it's hard to beat the Caterham 7 or the AC Cobra. However both are as impractical as the Elise (and a genuine aluminium Cobra is ridiculously expensive!). Plus both cars have umpteen million clones about. Indeed, the Cobra is probably the most common shape for a kit car - I've come across at least twenty companies that produce them!

Dare DZ Less commonly known are such joys as the Dare DZ (now that's funky looks :-), Delfino Feroce (probably the only car created by an advertising company!), FBS Census (well wacky styling), Grinnall Scorpion (three wheeled insanity :-), HMC Mk IV (classic looks with modern technology), Jösse Indigo (Swiss, but looks great), Noble M10 (great car but didn't sell so got replaced by the much more outrageous M12), Trident Iceni (still unreleased and now renamed the Broadley One), Strathcarron SC-5A (an insane track day car that apparently revs to over 10k rpm!), Spyker C8 Spyder (Dutch, but again it looks gorgeous, especially on the inside - propellers everywhere!).

Marcos Mantaray In the end though, the choice came down to either a Marcos Mantaray or TVR Chimera. The two are practically the same car - Rover V8 engine, ~1000kg fibreglass body with sumptuous leather & wood interior, huge (for a sports car) boot, etc. To me, the TVR had the more stylish interior and (slightly) more storage space but the Marcos the better exterior. Also, the Marcos felt nicer to drive which is all that really matters when all is said and done.

Marcos have had a somewhat checkered history since Jem Marsh (the driver) and Frank Costin (the engineer) started working together in 1959. They have produced, for example, the Mini Marcos, a contender for the title of ugliest car ever made! Then, in 2001 the company folded. They have since acquired new financial banking and have re-emerged as Marcos Engineering with the Marcasite TS250. This is essentially a Mantaray with a new nose and dash, and a more sensible engine. However, it does make the Mantaray itself a very rare car indeed as only about 20 of them were produced.

Personally, I prefer the Mantaray's shape over the Marcasite's and that V8 gurgle is hard to beat :-). Plus, although you don't get to choose the colour :-(, buying second hand is an awful lot cheaper than new. So, a week before Christmas I became the proud owner of a Mantaray called Pob (V312 POB to be precise).

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